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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Three longtime employees retire from plant

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Joe Johnes
NEW MADRID -- Joe Johnes, Dennis Meier and Melvin Pobst recently retired from Associated Electric Cooperative's New Madrid Power Plant. The three had a combined 84 years of service to the plant.

Johnes, instrumentation superintendent, started as an instrument repairer in 1979 after a stint in the U.S. Navy and employment with a company in Cairo, Ill., that designed and repaired large cooling systems. At New Madrid Power Plant he progressed to journeyman, was promoted to supervisor in 1981 and in 1992 became superintendent.

Johnes and his crew of 11 worked on projects to improve the efficiency and environmental performance of the plant's two generating units, such as implementation of the primary operating control system for the plant and new systems for ash handling, emissions control and the pumps that supply water to the boilers.

Dennis Meier
Looking back on his years of working with control and monitoring equipment, Johnes said the biggest change was going from hard-wired systems to mainly digital systems. "The amount of things a piece of equipment can do now and the amount of data we gather is unbelievable compared to 1979. From a single point of display on a control board, there are now thousands."

During his career, Johnes received three of the cooperative's Excel Awards that recognize outstanding employee achievements. Nominated by his co-workers, Johnes received awards for Distinguished Service in 2006, Outstanding Community Service in 2002 and Supervisor of the Year in 1997. He plans to pursue his love of scuba diving and collecting radio-controlled equipment and miniature trains.

Meier retires as a maintenance planner. He planned routine and outage maintenance schedules for anything mechanical, such as turbines, pumps, motors and material-handling equipment in the coal yard.

Melvin Pobst
Meier joined AECI in 1983 after managing a tool and dye metal fabrication shop in Sikeston. In 1991, he was promoted to mechanical maintenance supervisor and two months later became maintenance planner. One of his favorite experiences at the plant was working three years on a project to help restore peregrine falcons to the area by encouraging them to use the plant as a nesting site.

In his retirement, Meier plans to develop 15 acres of Trammette and Chambourcin grapes into a vineyard that will supply River Ridge Winery near Commerce with high-quality, locally grown grapes. "I always thought vineyards were a beautiful and bountiful crop, and they've been something that sparked my interest," he said.

Pobst started as a journeyman mechanic in 1978, working in the coal yard where coal was moved from river barges to be crushed and sent to the power plant. Through the years, Pobst took additional heavy equipment, machinist and welding training, progressing to journeyman machinist/mechanic and journeyman welder/mechanic. In 1995 he became a journeyman equipment repairman and in 2005 he was promoted to mechanical maintenance supervisor. His crew was responsible for maintaining mechanical systems, including crushers and turbines.

Speaking about his years as a supervisor, Pobst said, "I didn't expect those guys to do anything I didn't do. I treated them like I wanted to be treated. That's the only way to get good work done."

Pobst attended Bailey Technical School in St. Louis after high school, and after a stint in the Navy he worked as a boat diesel mechanic for companies in Paducah, Ky., and Cape Girardeau.

In 1997, Pobst was part of the coal yard maintenance crew that was recognized by fellow plant employees for accomplishments beyond the normal call of duty. The team received the cooperative's Excel Team of the Year Award for its ability to improve efficiency of the plant's coal-handling equipment.

Since retiring, Melvin and his wife have traveled to Michigan and Colorado and are preparing for additional trips. He also plans to spend more time with a Corvette and a 1923 Ford Roadster he takes to car shows.